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Friday, February 25, 2011

The Next Step

With Ryan Kalil tagged, it looks like the front office is playing a waiting game for a new CBA. Kalil, Deangelo Williams, and Charles Johnson all expressed a feeling that the team wants all three players, that deals are possible, and that the players themselves want to stay.

Granted, all players, when asked a bit before free agency, are probably going to say they want to stay**, but it sounds like there's a legitimate plan to put new contracts in hands as soon as possible.

(**Richard Marshall is an exception, but then again he expressed disappointment in going to a team with two starters at CB, and talked huge contract while he was still a nickel back. For those efforts, Carolina has leaked that he won't be back. It doesn't seem worth the effort to negotiate.)

So what are we legitimately looking at?

*With Kalil in hand, the expectation would be to lock up Johnson and then Williams, hopefully in that order. They'll look for a long term deal for CJ, which could spread out the cap hit on a young player. Assuming a CBA that allows deals 6 years or more, I'd expect a 7 year deal with a third year buy-in option that would otherwise drop it to a 4 year deal (with a heavy penalty for not picking up the option). I'd anticipate a deal in the $8-9 million range, based on market. That would put him in the second tier of DE, realistic for players

*With Williams, it's much harder to say. Carolina will want a shorter term deal, whereas Williams will look for security. A 4 year deal tends to be very heavy on bonus and salary, with no ramp-up period for lower salaries, but a 6-7 year deal rarely works out for teams dealing with starting RB (Shaun Alexander was cut within two years of his second contract, and a Pro Bowler when he signed it).

There aren't a lot of contracts for top RB out right now, and none for players who split carries, so value is a tough consideration right now. Maurice Jones-Drew received 5 years, $31M, with $17.5M in total guarantees, in 09. Stephen Jackson signed for 5 years, $48.5 million. So will the carry split hurt his value? Will his value to another team inevitably be more as a feature back? If I had to guess, and I've had a reasonable guess at recent contracts, the Panthers will start out at $7 million and Williams will start out at $9.5 million, with the differences being guarantees (which are harder to negotiate around).

I can't say if Carolina will pay $8 million or more for a part time starter, one that was somewhat unreliable over time for injury and turns 28 this offseason (which gives DW a career lifespan of 3-4 years at best). There's also the consideration of Jonathan Stewart continuing to be a greater force, and that he only has two years left. Having to choose could mean Stewart is gone in 2013, and paying a 30 year old Williams $9 million to do more work.

*Thomas Davis seems to be the team's choice at WLB, and that's reasonable. While the Tampa 2 was a better fit for him, he's still a powerful star in space and the concepts aren't much different in the Jim Johnson D (the SLB and MLB blitz more, and the WLB still contains more). James Anderson played lights out last year but was a better cover 2 fit in the SLB spot, and never really had the instinct for WLB. He's not a freelance player, and not a powerful athlete like Davis or Beason (JA and JB are similar in 40 time, but Beason's both more athletic laterally, in short space, and more importantly instinctive). Hard to say what Davis will command, but the team has made him a priority, and they should know by this point that he's recovered from surgery.

After that, I doubt there's room for much negotiation before free agency, and that's if all that happens before the draft. Since the team seems to have a plan handy, they can act quickly (many of these deals are delinquent anyway). If not, and they end up with just Kalil out of this, they've failed.
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